Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More religious images from Mexico

These are from the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.


When you walk in from the Zocalo, the great plaza, this figure of the crucified Christ is just about the first thing you see.


The altar adjacent is architecturally grand, ornate, and completely covered in gold. I found the display of wealth slightly disconcerting.

Our guide reported a legend told to explain why this Jesus has black skin: a long time ago, there was a bishop. This bishop was very devout, and every day he began the morning by kissing the feet of an image of the crucified Christ. The bishop had an enemy who wanted to kill him and who knew of this devotional habit, so the enemy put poison on the feet of the statue. But the bishop remained unharmed. The Cristo Negro absorbed the poison and its skin turned black. Or so it is said...


In an obscure side chapel, the same guide pointed us to a gory figure of a seated, tired, and bleeding -- but presumably resurrected -- Jesus. The skin color, hair, and facial features appear European. But according to the guide, this is one of the oldest images in the Cathedral, a statue formed out of a maize paste by Indian artisans at the very beginning of the colonial occupation.

All I can say about any of this is that the interplay of racial ideas, privilege, ethnicities, and cultures in Mexico presents complexities beyond the understanding of a tourist on a quick visit. But despite knowing I cannot be certain that I can meaningfully interpret what I was seeing, it was a gift to have a chance to see it.

1 comment:

Nell said...

That's one of the most affecting images of Jesus I've ever seen. Thanks for all your pictures, and have a soul-restoring time in the hills!

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